Last Monday may have been ‘Blue Monday’, but debt counsellors working in Londonderry are urging people not to be terrified of post-Christmas bills and seek help immediately if they are concerned or are in difficulty.
Debt Advisors Sean McCallion, Tom Henry and Sean Doran have a wealth of knowledge between them and agree that facing the problem head on is better than sticking your head in the sand.
“People think coming to us is like seeing the bank manager,” said Sean McCallion.
“But that couldn’t be further from the truth. We are completely separate and our first job is to make people feel at ease. Our service is free. It’s all about going over the options available.
“People think that the big companies and banks are the hardest to deal with but, more often, it’s the local lenders that can be most difficult. That’s why we sit down and work out an individual plan for everyone. Nobody is the same.”
The three men are bracing themselves for an increase in work as January draws to a close.
“We are generally quiet just after Christmas, but from this week on we will definitely see an increase in people needing our services,” said Sean Doran.
“It’s not always about sorting out existing debt but helping people budget and manage their money, too. Prevention of debt in the first place is as important. Once debt is paid, we would encourage saving with any disposable income that’s left over.”
Kathleen Bradley, from Dove House, said those who visit a debt advisor will feel better about their situation.
“More than anything the meetings give people hope,” she said.
“These three people are experts in their field so they are able to negotiate with the big companies, draft the letter that needs sent, or accompany someone to court. The fact they are independent and client-centred also helps.”
Emotions people go through when facing debt include guilt, embarrassment and shame.
“A change of circumstance, like losing your job or a cut in benefits, can easily impact on your debt management,” said Tom Henry.
“No-one should feel ashamed of something out of their control. We can help bring those debts under control again.”
People in the Waterside who would like confidential help can telephone Sean Doran, splits his time between Caw and Nelson Drive Action Group (02871 277143) and Limavady Community Development Initiative (02877 769148).
Dove House Community Trust facilitates the work of Debt Action NI with Sean McCallion, where he can be contacted on 02871 269327.
Tom Henry is based at the Strabane District Caring Services centre. Contact, 02871 884307 or 07578239978.
Anyone needing help and advice anyone can contact Debt Action NI on freephone 0800 9174607.